Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast
|Star Wars Jedi Knight II:
|Developer(s)||Raven Software (Windows) Vicarious Visions (Xbox & GameCube)|
|Series||Star Wars: Jedi Knight|
|Engine||Quake III: Team Arena engine (with Raven's custom SDK)|
|Genre(s)||First-person shooter/third-person shooter|
|Distribution||CD-ROM, GameCube Optical Disc, DVD|
Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast is a 2002 first and third-person action game in the Star Wars: Jedi Knight series. The Microsoft Windows and OS X versions were developed by Raven Software, and the Xbox and GameCube versions by Vicarious Visions. The PC version was published by LucasArts in North America and Europe, and by CyberFront in Japan. The Xbox and GameCube versions were published by LucasArts in North America, and Activision in Europe. The Mac version was published by Aspyr. Powered by the Quake III: Team Arena game engine, the game primarily revolves around ranged and melee combat, with the player capable of wielding classic Star Wars weapons such as blasters, lightsabers and Force powers.
The game features both single-player and multiplayer modes. The story-driven single-player campaign is set in the Star Wars Expanded Universe two years after the events of Mysteries of the Sith. The plot follows protagonist Kyle Katarn as he fights against the Dark Jedi Desann and his followers. The game was critically well-received on all platforms, with scores on Metacritic of 89 out of 100 for the PC version, 81 out of 100 for the Xbox version, and 75 out of 100 for the GameCube version.
In 2003, a sequel titled Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy was released for the Xbox, Mac OS and PC. In 2006, the PC version of Jedi Outcast was re-released with four other Star Wars games in a pack entitled Star Wars: The Best of PC. On September 16, 2009, the game was re-released with the other Jedi Knight games (Star Wars: Dark Forces, Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II, Mysteries of the Sith and Jedi Academy) onto Steam and Direct2Drive.
As a first/third-person shooter set in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, Jedi Outcast allows the player to wield a variety of firearms from the Star Wars franchise, as well as lightsabers and Force powers. The player can choose whether to use first or third-person perspective for each weapon, including the lightsaber. Combat is standard for the shooter genre, offering players an array of energy and projectile weapons, plus a variety of explosives. Players have health and shield meters, each of which is replenished separately.
Jedi Outcast places a strong emphasis on lightsaber combat. As in the films, lightsabers can be used to deflect shots from blasters. The game offers three lightsaber styles; fast, medium and strong, with each style differing from the others in terms of the speed of attacks and damage dealt. There are also a number of combos, many of which are unique to the selected saber style.
Force powers (such as Push, Jump, and Lightning) are available in both single-player and multiplayer modes, but more powers can be used in the latter. The use of powers is restricted by a "Force Meter", which depletes with each use and gradually refills over time. The "level" of a Force power determines the strength of that power and the amount depleted from the Force meter during its use. The multiplayer mode divides players into Light Siders and Dark Siders, pitting each side against the other in team battles. Each side has access to both shared "Neutral" Force powers, which are mostly focused on increasing speed and athletic ability. There are also numerous powers unique to both Light and Dark sides. As in the previous games, Light Side powers are mainly focused around protection and healing, while Dark Side powers are openly aggressive. Unlike previous games, however, Kyle does not exclusively select Light or Dark powers in the single-player, instead receiving a selection of both.
The single-player campaign follows Kyle Katarn as he moves through the levels in a linear manner, meeting friendly and hostile Non-player characters (NPCs). Friendly NPCs will occasionally assist the player in combat. In addition to combat, the campaign features a variety of puzzles.
When the game starts, Kyle has forsaken The Force after the events of the previous game, and as such, the player has no access to a lightsaber or any Force powers. However, after the first two missions, Kyle regains his Force abilities, and as the game progresses, the number of powers available, and their strength, increase. Progression of Force abilities is fixed, and cannot be customized. Having previously fallen to the Dark Side, Kyle has access to both Light Side powers (such as Force Heal and Jedi Mind Trick) and Dark Side powers (such as Force Lightning and Force Grip), along with neutral ones (such as Force Speed, Force Jump, Force Pull and Force Push).
Jedi Outcast features a set of multiplayer modes. In the PC and Macintosh versions, these can be played over a LAN or the Internet, but combat is limited to two players on the console versions. There are a variety of game modes (such as "Free-for-All", "Team Deathmatch" and "Capture the flag") which can be played with other players, bots, or both. Each player has limited customization control over his or her avatar. He or she can choose the player model (with access to nearly every character in the game, as well as some characters from the films not seen in the single-player mode) and lightsaber color. Before a match, the server specifies the game rules, including "Force ranking", which controls how many points the players have available to allocate into Force powers. Players then customize their powers for the match. The server can also choose to disable normal weapons so as to create lightsaber-only matches.
Setting and characters
The single-player game is set approximately two years after the events of Mysteries of the Sith. As with Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II, the player controls Kyle Katarn (voiced by Jeff Bennett), a former Jedi who has cut his links with the Force after almost succumbing to the Dark Side. At the start of the game he is a mercenary working for the New Republic.
Over the course of the game, Kyle is joined by various other characters. Three of the most prominent are Jan Ors (Vanessa Marshall), a fellow mercenary and subsequent love interest; Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams), the sophisticated administrator of Cloud City, as seen in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi; and Luke Skywalker (Bob Bergen), protagonist of the original film trilogy and leader of the Jedi Academy on Yavin IV. The player also receives help from other Jedi and New Republic soldiers, while Mon Mothma (Carolyn Seymour), Chief-of-State of the New Republic, assigns Kyle and Jan missions during the game.
There are four main antagonists: Desann (Mark Klastorin), a former student of the Jedi Academy, who killed a fellow student before leaving the Order; Tavion (Kath Soucie), Desann's apprentice; Galak Fyyar (Steven Blum), a general in the Imperial Remnant; and Reelo Baruk (Kevin Michael Richardson), a crime lord posing as a "respectable garbage collector" on Nar Shaddaa. Other enemies include Imperial stormtroopers, numerous thugs and soldiers infused with the Force (known as the "Reborn").
The game begins with Kyle Katarn and Jan Ors investigating a supposedly abandoned Imperial outpost on Kejim. However, when they arrive, they find the base crawling with Imperial forces. They fight their way through the base, discovering a research centre studying cortosis crystals, which are similar to those used to power lightsabers. Following the cortosis link, Kyle and Jan travel to Artus Prime, a mining colony turned into an Imperial stronghold, where the miners have been enslaved and experimented upon. Katarn thwarts the Imperial operations, but not before Jan is captured by Desann and Tavion. Kyle tries to rescue her, but, having forsaken the ways of the Jedi, he is easily defeated by Desann, who orders Tavion to kill Jan before they leave the planet.
With Jan dead, Kyle travels to the Valley of the Jedi (a major plot element in Dark Forces II) to regain his Force powers, and then to the Jedi Academy to get his lightsaber. There, he learns of Desann's origins from Luke Skywalker. Luke offers Kyle his lightsaber back if he can complete a set of trials. Kyle completes the trials easily, so easily that Luke quickly deduces Kyle has returned to the Valley. Sensing Kyle's anger about the death of Jan, Luke warns Kyle that the path he is walking is a dangerous one, but he nevertheless gives Kyle the information he seeks, linking Desann to Reelo Baruk, a Rodian crime lord on Nar Shaddaa. Reelo proves to have little information, but Kyle stumbles upon Lando Calrissian, who has been imprisoned in Baruk's dungeons. From Lando, Kyle learns that Desann is a part of a huge operation smuggling cortosis crystals through Cloud City. Escaping from Reelo, Kyle and Lando then head for Bespin.
Lando drops Kyle off at the bottom of Cloud City, and as he works his way up the structure he has his first encounter with a Reborn. He subsequently fights several Reborn, plus numerous Remnants, until he eventually encounters Tavion, who is about to board a ship headed for Galak Fyyar's Star Destroyer, the Doomgiver. Kyle defeats Tavion and threatens to kill her, but Tavion pleads for her life, telling Kyle that Jan is alive and on board the Doomgiver. Jan's faked death was just a ploy to trick Kyle into going to the Valley of the Jedi in order for Desann to follow him there and tap its power. In exchange for her life, Tavion lets Kyle use her ship to travel to the Star Destroyer.
After fighting his way past some stormtroopers at the Cairn Installation - an Imperial base hidden on an asteroid in the Lenico Belt, where the Doomgiver is docked - Kyle meets up with Luke Skywalker. From Luke, Kyle learns that Desann has found the Valley of the Jedi, and used its energy to empower an army of Reborn which could number in the thousands. After battling several Reborn together, they part ways. Kyle then sneaks across the Cairn base and finds out it is also a large assault ship construction facility, which is preparing for a full-scale planetary assault. Kyle confronts more Reborn, including "Shadowtroopers" - Reborn equipped with armor which is both lightsaber-resistant, and allows a measure of invisibility. Kyle manages to sneak into the Doomgiver before the ship leaves Cairn, but Luke is left behind. After the Doomgiver completes its jump to hyperspace, Kyle uses the ship's communications array to contact Rogue Squadron. He finds Jan in the detention block, but then learns that Desann was not specificially interested in the Valley of the Jedi - instead his goal all along was to invade the Jedi Academy. Kyle destroys the Doomgiver's shield reactor, and kills Galak Fyyarr. Narrowly escaping the ship's destruction, Kyle and Jan use an escape pod to land on Yavin IV.
With the invasion fully underway, Kyle heads to the Jedi Academy, while Jan goes to a hangar to assist in the aerial battle. Kyle soon finds the academy overrun with Imperial forces, but with the help of the New Republic troops, he fends them off. Together with Jedi Academy students, he engages in a fight against Reborn warriors and Shadowtroopers. After crossing underground tunnels, Kyle finally confronts Desann. He reveals the Doomgiver's destruction and the defeat of the Imperial forces, but Desann rejects Kyle's offer to rejoin the Jedi and they engage in a lightsaber battle. Kyle prevails and kills Desann. He subsequently reunites with Luke and Jan, and politely rebuffs Luke's offer to safeguard his lightsaber, saying he is not ready to forsake the Force again.
On May 17, 2001 at E3 2001, LucasArts announced that Raven Software were developing a third game in the Jedi Knight series. Some plot details were given, such as the locations visited in the game; Cloud City, Yavin IV, Smuggler's Moon and some planets original to the game. The following day at E3, LucasArts gave a demonstration of the game, showing the lightsaber and Force combat as well as the "buddy" system: in which certain NPCs would fight alongside the player. Technical details were also revealed: the game would use id Software's Quake III Arena engine, and the GHOUL 2 animation system, seen in Raven's Soldier of Fortune II: Double Helix. The polygon capacity of the engine had also been doubled. The game was also on display at id's QuakeCon 2001, where enemy AI and combat were demonstrated. LucasArts announced that the game would feature multiplayer, although due to being early in development little information was revealed.
On July 17, 2001, multiplayer developer Pat Lipo made a post on his .plan file, revealing that Rich Whitehouse had been brought onto the development team to handle development of the game's multiplayer bots. Whitehouse moved on to tackle the entirety of the game's multiplayer codebase, and was subsequently credited as the game's sole multiplayer programmer.
On January 16, 2002 LucasArts launched a new website for Jedi Outcast featuring an overview of the game and information regarding characters, weapons and Force powers. An FAQ, screenshots, concept art, images of player models and downloadable wallpapers were also available. A teaser trailer was released on February 8, showing the game's combat, weapons, characters and environments. On March 13, 2002, LucasArts announced that the game was on track for release later in the month. Two days later, they announced Jedi Outcast was ready for release, set to go on sale by March 29 at a retail price of US$49.99. A new trailer was also released.
Jedi Outcast shipped on March 26, 2002.
The game's SDK was released on April 22, 2002. This included a level editor, map compiler, model viewer, and shader editor and viewer. Since its release, hundreds of mods have been submitted to sites such as FileFront. A 66 MB demo of the game was released on May 10, 2002, featuring the same level shown in an incomplete form at E3 2001, which did not feature in the final version. Two patches were subsequently released: version 1.03 and 1.04.
At E3 2002, LucasArts announced that Jedi Outcast would be released on the GameCube and Xbox. On May 31, 2002, LucasArts and Aspyr announced that a Macintosh version of the game would be released. The Mac version was released on November 5, 2002 and the Xbox and GameCube versions on November 19 in North America and three days later in Europe.
On November 15, 2006 LucasArts announced that Jedi Outcast would feature with Star Wars: Battlefront, Star Wars: Empire at War, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Star Wars: Republic Commando and a 14-day trial of Star Wars Galaxies in a compilation release entitled Star Wars: The Best of PC. It was released during the 2006 holiday season, retailing at US$39.99.
Following Disney's decision to close LucasArts on April 3, 2013, the developers at Raven Software released the source code for the game on SourceForge under GNU GPLv2 licensing. A few days after release, the source code disappeared from SourceForge without explanation. SourceForge later explained to media outlet Kotaku that Raven Software had requested its removal. Kotaku speculated this was due to the presence of licensed code, such as for the Bink Video format from Rad Game Tools, that was not intended to be made public.
However, prior to the removal a fork called "OpenJK" was created on GitHub with the problematic code parts already excised. The goal of the OpenJK community project is to "maintain and improve Jedi Academy + Jedi Outcast released by Raven Software." This includes the unification of the Jedi Outcast and Jedi Academy engines, maintaining the compatibility of previous releases, and providing source ports for Mac and Linux. Daily builds for Windows and early Linux builds are already available.
All three versions of the game were generally well received among players and critics alike. The predominant pattern amongst reviewers was that the PC version was the best of the three, followed by the Xbox version, with the GameCube version generally seen as inferior to the others.
Game Informer scored the game 9.5 out of 10, with reviewer Andrew Reiner calling it "the quintessential Star Wars game and a feast for all FPS devotees." He also wrote, "without question, Jedi Outcast is the most enjoyable and accomplished Star Wars game yet." He was also extremely impressed with multiplayer, calling it "a highly addictive, over-the-top experience that all FPS players must see to believe." Brian Gee of Game Revolution gave the game an A-. He praised how authentically 'Star Wars' the game felt, as well as the lightsaber inteface, writing "I've played a ton of Star Wars games in my time, and I don't think any of them can match the excitement and fun of lightsaber play in Jedi Outcast."
IGN were also impressed, scoring the game 9 out of 10 and giving it an "Editor's Choice" award. Reviewer Steve Butts lauded the "tightly written, mature plot," and wrote "not only is this one of the greatest Star Wars games I've ever played, it's one of the best action games period." He also commended the "fantastic" graphics and "intelligent" level design, although he was critical of the puzzles, the lightsaber interface, and complained that "the game starts too slowly." GameSpot also scored the game 9 out of 10 and, like IGN, also gave it an "Editor's Choice" award. Reviewer Amer Ajami echoed IGN's criticisms of the "slow start" and "too much puzzle-solving." However, he was very impressed with the interface, arguing "never before has melee combat in a shooter been so effectively executed," and he concluded by saying "the game's strong points - especially its combat - overshadow whatever problems Jedi Outcast may have early on," calling it "simply one of the easiest games to recommend this year."
Game Over Online gave the game 93%, calling it "an intriguing juxtaposition of pieces of incredibly intense FPS action that had me on the edge of my seat combined with puzzle-like sections of such opacity that they made me want to kill myself."
In a negative review, X-Play criticized the game as a "disturbance in the Force." Although reviewer Jason D'Aprile called the story "pretty good," the graphics "fantastic" and the audio effects "just right," he complained that the level design "succumbs to the Dark Side," citing "illogical and frustrating situations." He also considered the multiplayer mode "not very impressive" and gave the game 2 out of 5 stars. Eurogamer were also underwhelmed, scoring the game 7 out of 10. They criticized the slow start, the lightsaber interface and the AI. However, they did commend the atmosphere and some of the level design. They concluded that "Jedi Outcast is a rather patchy game, with moments of genius let down by a lack of consistency. The guns are derivative and rarely used once you get hold of your lightsaber, the melee combat clumsy and chaotic, the AI poor and some of the locations derivative and poorly designed." 
In June 2007, GameTrailers's list of the 10 best Star Wars games saw Jedi Outcast rank at number one, with the editorial commenting that "this may not be the first time in which you play as a Jedi in a video game, but this is the first time in which you actually felt like one." They also praised the lightsaber and Force combat systems, a story which they felt was consistent with the films, and the cameos from some key Star Wars characters (namely Luke Skywalker and Lando Calrissian).
Xbox and GameCube
The Xbox version holds an aggregate score of 81 out of 100 on Metacritic, based on twenty-four reviews, and 79.16% on GameRankings, based on fifty-five reviews. The GameCube version holds scores of 75 out of 100 on Metacritic, based on seventeen reviews, and 75.32% on GameRankings, based on thirty-three reviews.
The Xbox version was described as "truly fantastic" by the Official Xbox Magazine, who scored it 9 out of 10. IGN were also impressed, scoring it 8.8 out of 10 and calling it "the best Star Wars experience on the Xbox". Reviewer Aaron Boudling praised how the controls had been mapped onto the Xbox Controller, but was highly critical of the game's lack of support for Xbox Live, and the absence of an online multiplayer mode. He also felt the graphics in the cutscenes were significantly weaker than the PC version. GameSpot scored it 8.3 out of 10, with reviewer Amer Ajami saying the port "retains the essence of what it must feel like to be an all-powerful Jedi, which was so well conveyed in the original PC game, without sacrificing much in the way of graphics, playability, or overall value. In fact, the game's complicated control scheme is better served on an Xbox controller than it is in the PC's typical mouse and keyboard setup." However, he too criticized the lack of Xbox Live support and the poor graphical quality of the cutscenes. Game Revolution gave the game a B+, praising the controls and atmosphere, but criticizing the AI and lack of Xbox Live support. Eurogamer were as unimpressed with the Xbox version as they had been with the PC version, scoring it 6 out of 10. Reviewer Kristan Reed found a lot of the problems with the game to be inherent to the original, not problems with the port - a slow beginning, poor AI, bad level design, repetitive puzzles. Reed called the lack of Xbox Live support "plain unacceptable" and concluded "Jedi Outcast is certainly an entertaining package when it gets things right, but it's also riddled with design flaws, technical flaws and various minor irritations that conspire to detract from your overall enjoyment. Given that it's also not Live (or even LAN) enabled, Xbox owners don't even have that crumb of comfort to elevate its status."
GameSpot scored the GameCube version 8.2 out of 10. As with the Xbox version, Ajami was critical of the cutscene graphics, but concluded that "Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast makes a fine addition to the Nintendo console's gradually growing list of action games." GameSpy scored the game 76 out of 100. Reviewer Scott Steinberg was critical of the game's slow start and the nature of some of the puzzles. Of the port, he wrote "This game was an award-winning game on a prior platform, so you'd be in the right to demand more. But from the perspective of a GameCube owner just getting your first taste of the galactic goodie that is the Jedi Knight series, things could have been a lot worse [...] Jedi Knight II: Outcast stands as a respectable effort, but disappointing reminder that when you swap content from platform to platform, something often gets lost in the transition." IGN scored it 7.2 out of 10, with reviewer Aaron Boudling arguing that the graphics and controls were significantly poorer than in either the PC or Xbox versions. Of the controls, Boulding wrote "While the Xbox version allows you to map your favorite moves to the black and white buttons for quick access, GameCube owners are out of luck and will have to fumble around with the D-Pad in the heat of battle." He concluded "It's obvious that no work at all went into trying to get this game to properly run on GameCube. The framerate is erratic and constantly alternates between smooth and choppy, further complicating the already clunky control system [...] If you're a multi-console owner, get the superior Xbox version to see a better realized port." Nintendo World Report scored it 6 out of 10, also citing the inferior controls and poorer graphics than the PC and Xbox versions; "Jedi Outcast ends up being a pretty terrible port of an excellent PC title. The trick to enjoying the GameCube incarnation will be coming to terms with the control and graphic inadequacies in the game and then being able to make yourself get over the "hump" so that you can enjoy the meat and potatoes of the whole experience."
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- Official site via Internet Archive
- Jedi Outcast source code at Shacknews
- OpenJK - an open source project to port Jedi Academy and Jedi Outcast to newer operating systems
- Star Wars: Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast on Wookieepedia: a Star Wars wiki